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Pipeline work 5

The Dakota Access Pipeline will carry oil from the Bakken to Patoka, Ill.

A firm contracted by the company that built the Dakota Access Pipeline disputed last week the allegation it was providing "security and private investigative services" during the monthslong protests against the project.

North Carolina-based TigerSwan's answer to a lawsuit from the North Dakota Private Investigative and Security Board was filed Thursday, Aug. 10, about about six weeks after the board's complaint was filed in Burleigh County District Court. The regulatory board accused TigerSwan of operating in the state without a license and sought an injunction.

Providing private investigative or private security services without a current license is a Class B misdemeanor.

An Energy Transfer Partners spokeswoman previously said TigerSwan was no longer working in North Dakota on behalf of the company. Dallas-based ETP was the lead company building the 1,172-mile pipeline carrying oil from western North Dakota to Illinois.

The $3.8 billion project was subject to months of protests as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe raised objections to the pipeline's route near the reservation border.

The Private Investigative and Security Board's complaint said it was notified in September that TigerSwan was illegally providing security services in North Dakota. The firm said at the time it wasn't conducting those services, but it still submitted an application in mid-November on behalf of James Patrick Reese, the firm's president and chairman. That application was denied.

TigerSwan and Reese denied the allegation that the firm was maintaining "roving security teams" to monitor pipeline sites in North Dakota and that its security personnel were armed with semiautomatic rifles and sidearms. They said they did not provide or subcontract for any flyover photography, but used the photos in its reports.

TigerSwan said it "made recommendations and also liaised with law enforcement."

"TigerSwan did not undertake or furnish 'private security service' or 'private investigative service' within North Dakota" as defined by state law, TigerSwan's answer states. The nature of its business is listed as "management consulting" on the North Dakota Secretary of State's website, TigerSwan noted.

The firm said the board has failed to exhaust administrative remedies and the laws and regulations that the board cited are "void for vagueness." TigerSwan and Reese asked the court to dismiss the board's complaint with prejudice and award attorney fees.